Mental Health Care In New Orleans, Louisiana
Elizabeth Bagert Carpenter — New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an advocate for mental health care. I think that the federal and state funding cuts for mental health care is criminal — especially in my home state of Louisiana. We already had a mental health crisis on our hands before Governor Jindal took office. This was especially true in New Orleans where people were still trying to recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Upon taking office, one of Jindal’s first decisions was to drastically cut Mental Health Funding in Louisiana. In the wake of this action, we have seen the closure of almost every state mental hospital in the NOLA metro area. Jindal’s narrow-minded actions have made our mental health crisis in Louisiana implode. We are currently holding many of our mentally ill citizens in jails and prisons rather than homes or institutions where they can get help. This is reminiscent of something that would have happened 100 years ago when mentally ill people were committed to “insane asylums” for life rather than actual health care facilities for treatment. Jails seem to be the 21st century answer to mental health care — this gravely disappoints me.
Since I feel so passionate about this topic, one local charity that I try to support as much as possible is NAMI New Orleans (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). This is a national charity with a sub-chapter in NOLA whose mission is to assist people with mental illness and their families through support, education, advocacy and quality psychosocial services. NAMI’s goal is to help the mentally ill live with dignity and independence. I think that this is beautiful. In recent years, they have lost much of their funding, so they rely heavily on donations and grants to complete their mission.
Last week, NAMI sent me an email letting me know that the organization has entered a contest for a chance to win $5,000 in funding. I clicked on a link in the email to learn that all I have to do to help them win is like a video that is posted on the contest web site. At the end of the week, the organizations with the most likes are the winners. Since receiving this email, I have regularly checked the web site to see how Nami is performing. Today, I noticed that we currently have over 400,000 likes. Woo Hoo! How exciting! I then decided to browse through the list of the other charities to see how our competitors are performing. It seemed as if we were in the lead until I came across a charity called The Hugs Project. This organization has 2.3 million likes! Having never heard of this charity, I decided to Google it to learn what they do. It was at that point, I felt my blood boil and the hair stand up on top of my head. The mission of this organization is to provide care-packages for troops serving in the Middle East. Are you flippin’ kidding me? Why are people giving money to troops who are already handsomely compensated by the U.S. government? Working in a war zone is their job. This is what they chose when entering the military. In exchange for their service, they receive salary, lodging, food, military discounts, both health and life insurance, education, GI Bills, job training, VA mortgages and the list goes on and on. I want to know where our priorities are as a society. The fact that really infuriates me is that I know that there is not one person out there who has not been touched by mental illness at some point in time. We all know someone who has committed suicide or suffered from depression or even struggled with Bi-Polar Disorder. I just don’t get it. Of Course, when a tragedy such as, Sandy Hook occurs, everyone is frozen with sadness, anger, fear and hollers for change.
I would like to know what you think about this issue?
Death Row Inmates and Organ Donation
As many of you know, I am an advocate of organ donation due to the many health issues my mother suffered, i.e. liver and kidney failure. Naturally, this story caught my eye and made me wonder why we do not routinely ask for permission to use the organs of executed inmates. I believe that many would gladly donate their organs. Such a donation could be a form of reconciliation to society or even a means of creating a sense of purpose for the atrocious, barbaric death penalty. Ohio Department of Corrections tried to say that they are not equipped to facilitate organ donation. All they need to do is let the transplant doctors know when the organs will be ready for harvesting. It is not too complicated – maybe I am wrong?
“Yesterday Ohio Gov. John Kasich has stepped in to delay a convicted killer’s execution after the condemned man asked to donate his organs to ailing family members. Ronald Phillips sought to donate his kidney to his mother and his heart to his sister. But the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had said it was not equipped to facilitate organ donation.
Gov. Kasich announced that although Phillips’ crime was heinous, in the interest of saving lives, the state should examine whether it would be possible for the organs to be donated. The governor rescheduled the execution for July 2 to give the state time to study the feasibility of the proposition. An executed inmate has never been an organ donor in the United States, a spokeswoman for the educational nonprofit Lifebanc stated. Phillips was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter in 1993.”
What do you think? Should we try to create an organ donation program for death row inmates?